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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

CAUSAL CONUNDRUMS AGAIN PT. 2

For this essay I'll just tie together the observations between the previous essay and my last general-theory essay on the NUM formula.

In the former essay, I'm now asserting that causality in a literary context-- which, contra Todorov, is not homologous with the causality human beings experience in life-- has both a cognitive aspect and an affective aspect, summed up as "regularity" and "intelligibility."  Though I have not stated it in so many words, the same would be true of the Cassirer-esque parallel to causality, "efficacy," whose cognitive and affective aspects would be "anti-" versions of both concepts above.

In THE INTERSECTING AXES essay, I was still regarding causality as unitary in this statement:

It occurs to me that with both my categories of "the naturalistic" and "the marvelous," all of the "intangible shit" is highly dependent on whether or not the diegetic world depicted is one in which causality can or cannot be disrupted.

Now, I would say that it is only the regularity aspect of causality that has been violated in the domain of the marvelous.  Works of "the uncanny" and "the marvelous" both violate the "intelligibility" aspect of causality, and the affects associated with the over-ruling quality of "strangeness"-- a quality Rudolf Otto insightfully termed an "overplus."  But many audience-members, when looking at works in the domain of the uncanny, tend to ally such works with the domain of the naturalistic simply because all they can see is that the author has not violated the cosmos' appearance of regularity.

For instance, take the case of the Batman, whom I used here as an example to demonstrate the problematic status of such an alliance:


Like the Todorov book I’ve recently critiqued, the naïve critic’s assertion, “Batman isn’t a superhero because he doesn’t have superpowers,” contains a fundamental insight despite being essentially wrong. The latter also takes a lot less time to refute. The naïve critic has chosen to view the adjective “super” in “superhero” as meaning one thing and one thing only: the possession of powers, giving one the ability to perform “super” feats that human heroes cannot perform. However, “super” clearly does not connote this, either in dictionaries or in the opinions of many readers who do consider Batman a superhero—usually for an equally simple reason, because he wears a costume.

It's clear to me that even if Batman never encountered any marvelous entities or used any marvelous weapons, he would have a stronger alliance with the domain of "the marvelous" than that of "the naturalistic." His case would be the same as Zorro, the Lone Ranger, and many other costumed types who had no powers and dominantly opposed only naturalistic menaces.

The only affects appropriate to the domain of the naturalistic, then, are those governed by what I have called "the atypical," which combines the regularity and intelligibility aspects of causality.  Those affects were described in AFFECTIVE FREEDOM AND THE UNCANNY PT. 1:


In a fictive world where affectivity is defined by the causal order, the dominant sympathetic affect is "admiration" of things characteristic of the causal order, particularly what Jung called Freud's "physiological factors," while the dominant antipathetic affect is "fear" of aspects of the causal/physical order.


Now, I have chosen in other essays to make clear distinctions between the two different types of "strangeness," types I labeled by the relation of their sublimity-potential to the depiction of "reality" in the narrative.  But though I still feel those distinctions are important to a discussion of how sublimity occurs across the three domains, those distinctions do not bear on analyzing the maintenance of fictive causality.

Thus, I would now revise this sentence from the AFFECTIVE FREEDOM essay:

the uncanny flourishes precisely in the contrast between the monocausal nature of cognitive reality in a given work, while affectivity "symbolically exceeds the cognitive order," taking the dominant forms of "fascination" for the sympathetic affect and "dread" for the antipathetic affect.
It is not a "cognitive order" that has been exceeded, but the "affective aspect" of fictive causality.

The statement I make in that essay regarding "the marvelous" regarding its affects also requires some revision:


Where affectivity exceeds the causal order in accordance with the multicausal nature of the world's cognitivity, the dominant sympathetic affect is "exaltation" toward the multicausal, and the dominant antipathetic affect is "awe" toward it.

The affectivity alluded to above is in effect the same "anti-intelligibility" that makes a more muted appearance in works of the uncanny, but now it is allied to an "anti-regularity" that dominates the causal order of works of the marvelous.

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